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April 01, 1983 - Image 6

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1983-04-01

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6 Friday, April 1, 1983



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wishes. But most of all for your deep con-
cern during my recent hospitalization.


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Leo Frank Letter to A Classmate

(Editor's note: The cur-
rent issue of Jewish Cur-
rents reconstructs the
tragedy of Leo Frank in
an article by the maga-
zine's editor, Morris U.
Schappes, entitled "Leo
Frank's Letter From
Prison, 1914, to a
Classmate at Cornell."
The letter referred to was
written by John H. Gould
of Detroit. To trace the
identity of John Gould,
The Jewish News con-
tacted his niece, Mrs.
Orilla Winfield of Ojai,
Calif., who sent the origi-
nal letter to Dr. Schap-
pes. Her explanatory let-
ter is attached to the
Shappes article re-
printed here with his

Nashville Tennessean
March 7, 1982 broke its
story corroborating the in-
nocence of Leo Frank, who
was lynched Aug. 17, 1915,
in Marietta, Ga., we re-
ceived a letter from a long-
time subscriber in Ojai,
Calif., Mrs. Orilla Winfield.
Enclosing a clipping
about the story from the
Quincy, Ill., Herald-Whig of
March 8, she wrote to us
March 24:
". . . I come from a Protes-
tant, Midwestern farming
family. Our uncle went to
Cornell with Leo Frank and
we have in our possession a
letter written to our uncle
while Frank was either
awaiting trial or in jail. And
as children we were raised
on the injustice and horrors
of this event:
"I never heard the word
anti-Semitism until I went
away to college. Consider-
ing the rise of anti-
Semitism in this country, I
think the story should be
told again."

It is with Mrs. Win-
field's kind permission
that we publish the letter
sent from prison in At-
lanta on Oct. 29, 1914 to
John Gould (1879-1929),
an Illinois farm boy edu-

cated in local schools
until he went to Cornell,
majoring in engineering.
There he met Leo Frank
who got his degree of
mechanical engineering
in 1906.

and the only incriminating
witness introduced, (a per-
jurer and jail-bird).

Frank was now incarcer-
ated in the Fulton Tower,
Cell 2 of the South Corridor,
where he read in the eve-
nings by candlelight plus
the light from the single
electric bulb in the outside
corridor. He was allowed
visitors daily (and eve-
nings) and sometimes
played chess with them.
One such visitor was
Anne Carroll Moore, a lib-
rarian at Pratt Institute in
Brooklyn that Frank had
frequented as a high school
boy. She saw him every day
for eight days in June 1915,
found him "always cheerful,
serene and hopeful. as ready
to listen to others as to talk
himself but with a fund of
conversation as rich and in-
exhaustible as it was varied
and interesting."
When the letter to Gould
was written Oct. 29, 1914,
Frank had already endured
a terrible ordeal. Arrested
April 29, 1913, Frank, the
superintendent of the pencil
factory in which he was al-
leged to have murdered 13-
year-old Mary Phagan, a
worker in the factory, was
tried July 26 to Aug. 25 in a
lynch atmosphere both in-
side and outside the cour-

aroused a storm of disap-
proval and lynching
threats. However Smith ap-
pears to have backbone and
is not to be scared off. I will
send you his statement as it
appeared in the local news-
paper, in a day or two.
I am enclosing you some
of my leaflets covering vital
points of the trial, that have
not appeared in the public
prints and upon which the
public does not seem to be
intelligently enlightened.
I will be glad to hear from
you at any time and will
give you any information
you may desire.
With best wishes and
warm personal regards, I

He had been found
guilty and sentenced to
death by hanging — by a
judge who did not himself
believe Frank was guilty!
On Oct. 31 the same judge
has denied a retrial and
Feb. 17, 1914, the Georgia
Supreme Court had af-
firmed the lower court

Frank's case was again on
appeal to the Georgia Sup-
reme Court. Frank was
permitted to receive and
send letters freely, and to
use his own office station-
The letter from Frank to
his classmate Gould follows:

* * *

An Officer and A Gentleman
The Road Warrior
Lady .Chatterly's Lover
Yes, Giorgio
Blade Runner

My dear Gould:
Your letter was to me like
a "voice from the long ago."
Just to think that it is now
over eight years since I have
heard from or seen you. I
certainly appreciated your
words of cheer and confi-

Since graduation, the
years have been good to
me. In Atlanta, since
August 1908, I have held a
nice position with the
above firm, a position of
trust and responsibility.

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In November 1910 I mar-
ried a lovely, beautiful girl,
with whom I was very
It was while I was in pur-
suit of my happy life and
along its even tenor, that in
April 1913, this most unjust
and outrageous trouble
overtook me like a bolt from
the blue.
The charge was so prepos-
terous, that at first, I
treated the matter disdain-
fully, it was all so foreign
and far removed froin" my

Mr. Smith states that
Conley is guilty, and that
I am innocent and that he
will prove it!



-most fantastic conception or
thought. Still the public, so
easily aroused here in the
South, conceived a vicious
animosity and vindictive
hatred toward me, aided
and abetted by racial prej-
udice and getting the man
higher up.

Discretion and intelli-
gence was thrown to the
winds and unreasoning
mob rule took its place. A
dwarfed and cowardly
judiciary, in spite of the
truth and the facts, lent
its ear to the popular out-
cry; hence my present


In spite of it all, however,
I am still fighting and must
win in the end. Of the- ulti-
mate happy outcome, I have
never been in doubt. We are
still before the state courts,
and will fight to Washing-
ton if we have to do it. The
best of brain and heart has
been enlisted in my defense.
Doubtless, you have read
various accounts of my trial
in August 1913, the condi-
tions surrounding it, and
subsequent developments.
One of the most startling
recent developments was
the declaration of attorney
William M. Smith, counsel
for Jim Conley, the star
negro witness against me,

Cordially yours,
Leo M. Frank

* * *

Frank's letter to Gould
was sent to Detroit. In a let-
ter to The Jewish News Mrs.
Winfield explained:
"John Gould (1879-1929)
was born into a farming
family which settled in
western Illinois in 1943.
After finishing the rural
schools he attended Carth-
age College and Cornell
University where he was
graduated from the
mechanical engineering
department in 1906.
"He was a member of the
Society of Automobile
Engineers and worked in
both Detroit and Lansing,

"Leo Frank and John
Gould became friends at
Cornell. The -letter from Leo
Frank and his defense pap-
ers were kept in the family
file . ."

Georgia State Senate
Res. 423, Adopted 1982

Whereas, Leo Frank was tried in the Superior Court of

Fulton County in 1913 for the murder of Mary Phagan;
Whereas, he was convicted in an atmosphere charged
with prejudice and hysteria; and
Whereas, he was sentenced to death but his sentence
was communted by Governdr John Marshall Slaton;
Whereas, in August of 1915, he was taken by a mob
from the state institution in Milledgeville and carried
to Cobb County where he was lynched; and
Whereas, Alonzo Mann, a 14-year-old witness at the
Frank trial, was threatened with death and was not
asked specific questions which could have cleared
Frank; and
Whereas, Mr. Mann has come forward to clear his con-
science before his death and claims that Leo Frank did
not commit the murder of Mary Phagan; and
Whereas, if Leo Frank was not guilty of such crime, it is
only fitting and proper that his name be cleared, even
after his death.
Now, therefore, be it resolved by the Senate that this
body strongly requests that the State Board of Pardons
and Paroles conduct an investigation into the Leo
Frank case; and, if the evidence indicates that Leo
Frank was not guilty, the board should give serious
consideration to granting a pardon to Leo Frank post-
Be it further resolved that the Secretary of the Senate is
authorized and directed to transmit an appropriate
copy of this resolution to the State Board of Pardons
and Paroles.

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